NPGA Bobtail

EV Batteries Just Might Take a Page from Cylinder Exchange

The laundry list of difficulties the electric vehicle market faces is nothing short of monumental, but top of the list is EV plug-in recharging infrastructure and headaches for drivers when it comes to locations, charging time, and lines.  One alternate concept gaining traction is battery swaps at gas stations and C-stores that could resemble the 20 lb cylinder exchange business model.

In the early 2010s, a start-up company called Better Place raised $1 Billion of seed money on the business model of 5-minute battery replacement at dedicated stations.  By 2013, it had gone bankrupt.  In 2015, Tesla dipped a toe into the battery swap water by building a single exchange station in California, but the response was tepid.  Both of those ventures had approached the swap-model by replacing the entire battery—an extremely expensive proposition, not to mention battery blocks can weigh well over a thousand pounds.

A newcomer is seeking to disrupt the market: Ample Inc. has designed modular “Lego-like” EV batteries.  Modular portions of spent batteries are unscrewed and can be replaced with charged ones from a cabinet.  Sounds familiar!  Ample is backed by major oil companies in Japan and Thailand as well as a Shell venture that seeds start-ups.  Apparently these majors are sensing a shift in the passenger vehicle paradigm and don’t want to be left in the cold.

Of course, a drop-in battery component replacement model has many challenges, not the least of which is that just about every characteristic of an EV’s battery—shape, location, design, and chemical formulation—varies among manufacturers and even models.  But the battery module maker is seeking to convince automakers to divide up battery blocks into Ample-formatted modules.

This start-up model bucks Biden’s $7.5 Billion roadside plug-in recharging station plans—isn’t it fascinating that capitalism and entrepreneurship have come up with a potentially better solution than then the Feds.

Stephen Kaminski

NPGA President & CEO

This post is my take on an article by David Ferris in EnergyWire